Browsing by Subject "FOSSIL RECORD"

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  • Galbrun, Esther; Tang, Hui; Fortelius, Mikael; Zliobaite, Indre (2018)
    As organisms are adapted to their environments, assemblages of taxa can be used to describe environments in the present and in the past. Here, we use a data mining method, namely redescription mining, to discover and analyze patterns of association between large herbivorous mammals and their environments via their functional traits. We focus on functional properties of animal teeth, characterized using a recently developed dental trait scoring scheme. The teeth of herbivorous mammals serve as an interface to obtain energy from food, and are therefore expected to match the types of plant food available in their environment. Hence, dental traits are expected to carry a signal of environmental conditions. We analyze a global compilation of occurrences of large herbivorous mammals and of bioclimatic conditions. We identify common patterns of association between dental traits distributions and bioclimatic conditions and discuss their implications. Each pattern can be considered as a computational biome. Our analysis distinguishes three global zones, which we refer to as the boreal-temperate moist zone, the tropical moist zone and the tropical-subtropical dry zone. The boreal-temperate moist zone is mainly characterized by seasonal cold temperatures, a lack of hypsodonty and a high share of species with obtuse lophs. The tropical moist zone is mainly characterized by high temperatures, high isothermality, abundant precipitation and a high share of species with acute rather than obtuse lophs. Finally, the tropical dry zone is mainly characterized by a high seasonality of temperatures and precipitation, as well as high hypsodonty and horizodonty. We find that the dental traits signature of African rain forests is quite different from the signature of climatically similar sites in North America and Asia, where hypsodont species and species with obtuse lophs are mostly absent. In terms of climate and dental signatures, the African seasonal tropics share many similarities with Central-South Asian sites. Interestingly, the Tibetan plateau is covered both by redescriptions from the tropical-subtropical dry group and by redescriptions from the boreal-temperate moist group, suggesting a combination of features from both zones in its dental traits and climate.
  • Lafuma, Fabien; Corfe, Ian; Clavel, Julien; Di-Poi, Nicolas (2021)
    Teeth act as tools for acquiring and processing food, thus holding a prominent role in vertebrate evolution. In mammals, dental-dietary adaptations rely on tooth complexity variations controlled by cusp number and pattern. Complexity increase through cusp addition has dominated the diversification of mammals. However, studies of Mammalia alone cannot reveal patterns of tooth complexity conserved throughout vertebrate evolution. Here, we use morphometric and phylogenetic comparative methods across fossil and extant squamates to show they also repeatedly evolved increasingly complex teeth, but with more flexibility than mammals. Since the Late Jurassic, multiple-cusped teeth evolved over 20 times independently from a single-cusped common ancestor. Squamates frequently lost cusps and evolved varied multiple-cusped morphologies at heterogeneous rates. Tooth complexity evolved in correlation with changes in plant consumption, resulting in several major increases in speciation. Complex teeth played a critical role in vertebrate evolution outside Mammalia, with squamates exemplifying a more labile system of dental-dietary evolution.
  • Flores, Jorge R. (2020)
    Estimating how fast or slow morphology evolves through time (phenotypic change rate, PR) has become common in macroevolutionary studies and has been important for clarifying key evolutionary events. However, the inclusion of incompletely scored taxa (e.g. fossils) and variable lengths of discrete arbitrary time bins could affect PR estimates and potentially mask real PR patterns. Here, the impact of taxon incompleteness (unscored data) on PR estimates is assessed in simulated data. Three different time bin series were likewise evaluated: bins evenly spanning the tree length (i), a shorter middle bin and longer first and third bins (ii), and a longer middle bin and shorter first and third bins (iii). The results indicate that PR values decrease as taxon incompleteness increases. Statistically significant PR values, and the dispersion among PR values, depended on the time bins. These outcomes imply that taxon incompleteness can undermine our capacity to infer morphology evolutionary dynamics and that these estimates are also influenced by our choice of discrete time bins. More importantly, the present results stress the need for a better approach to deal with taxon incompleteness and arbitrary discrete time bins.